Florida football: Ventrell Miller making impact for Gators, helping those impacted by Hurricane Ian

Kevin Brockway
Gator Sports

After missing most of the 2021 season with a torn biceps muscle, Florida football linebacker Ventrell Miller faced anxious moments after suffering a foot injury in the second game of the season against Kentucky.

"Definitely when I first felt it, I was looking back at my last injury, thinking it was going to be a bigger deal than what it was," Miller said. "I was hard on myself."

But after sitting out one game against USF. Miller returned for UF's fourth game of the season at Tennessee, forcing one fumble and recovering another. He followed that up last week with eight tackles against Eastern Washington, including a stop on fourth down.

Miller will be counted on for more production and leadership on defense Saturday when the Gators (3-2, 0-2 SEC) host Missouri (2-3, 0-2 SEC) at The Swamp for homecoming (noon, ESPNU).

"It's a big week coming up, knowing that we're 0-2 in the SEC," Miller said. "I think the guys are just motivated to go out and get that first win. We've been working extremely hard at practice to come and do that."

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Miller said he played at about 70 percent against Tennessee and has improved health-wise since. 

"My training staff did a great job of just keeping me calm, telling me it was going to be all right, like I say, getting my rehab in and stuff like that," Miller said.

The 6-foot-1, 225-pound Miller led Florida in tackles in 2020 with 88 before appearing in just two games in 2021. He returned for a sixth year in 2022 and got off to strong start with 9 tackles, a pass breakup and a quarterback hurry against Utah. For the season, Miller has posted 29 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss, 1 forced fumble and 1 fumble recovery.

As one of UF's most experienced players on defense, Miller serves as an extension of the coaches on the field, responsible for lining up players depending on what the offense shows.

Florida Gators linebacker Ventrell Miller (51) makes a stop on fourth down during the first half against the Eastern Washington Eagles at Steve Spurrier Field at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, FL on Sunday, October 2, 2022. [Matt Pendleton/Gainesville Sun]

"It's not an easy thing to do," Miller said. "Taking pride, doing extra studying to get that done, just knowing the scheme in and out I say helps me."

Helping raise money for Hurricane Ian relief

A Lakeland native and former Kathleen High standout, Miller was deeply affected by the damage he saw across the state last week caused by Hurricane Ian. As a result, Miller used his social media platform earlier this week to start a foundation to provide relief for those impacted by the storm. He started a GoFundMe page with a lofty goal of raising $200,000. As of late Thursday night, the page has collected more than $3,500 in donations.

"Just seeing it, those people got impacted hard," Miller said. "Flooded, houses lost, all different kinds of things those people are going through. I felt some type of way for them. I felt like it was my job to try to come do something to help."

Miller's decision to start a foundation to help others doesn't surprise the coaches at Florida, who interact with him on a daily basis.

"Ventrell is as good a human being as I've been around," Florida coach Billy Napier said. "What makes him special to me is he actually has a significant care of other people, right? I mean, he's walking around living life, and he's got enough wisdom and perspective to realize that there's other people out there, and he's not consumed with himself ...

"He's doing good things for other people now. He's making a difference now. He'll do that the rest of his life. That's who he is."